Sitting in the Cafe-Cafe overlooking the Mediterranean waters of Acadia Beach, one Herzliya resident mourned the imminent destruction of much of the value of her beachside property.

“It will cause direct damage in the value of our real estate here,” she said.

The resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday about the plans of the Dan Acadia hotel to expand its infrastructure sixfold, with three new high-rise buildings and more than 1,100 new rooms. While she lives in central Herzliya, the resident owns beachside apartments in the Marina Heights building.

She said a new eight-story hotel tower would completely block their view of the sea.

Approximately 120 families have come together in a protest group, hailing from four buildings on the same block, a concentrated area spanning from Medinat Hayehudim Street – the only road leading to the Acadia beach area – and Zevulun Street – the only road leading out of the area.

The area has already become so overwhelmed by traffic that “on weekends the neighbors cannot go out,” a spokesman for the group said.

“Think about what will happen if you put in another 1,000 rooms,” he added.

Today, the hotel – owned by the Federman family – has a total of 209 rooms in a main building and a southward lowrise, which is slated to grow to approximately 1,326 rooms.

The new rooms will be located in the existing main structure, an eight-story building to its north, a 17-story building to its south in place of the low-rise and another eight-story building in place of the Federman family’s private home, according to the spokesman. The land leased by the Federman family in the beach area amounts to 5 hectares (12 acres), and the expanded hotel complex is slated to encompass – from basement to roof – about 150,000 square meters.

“It’s going to be the biggest hotel in Israel,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman criticized the ways in which the hotel calculated the transportation needs of the area, stressing that hotel representatives conducted a traffic survey on a Wednesday in November 2008 – a time of minimal beach traffic. At peak travel time during that day, they found 380 cars using Medinat Hayehudim per hour during peak travel time that day, the spokesman said.

In response, the community conducted its own survey, for four days last month, before the school summer vacation, and found on average 769 cars per hour during peak travel time.

A municipal statement promised, however, that “the flow of transportation in the region will improve, after creating travel routes and arranging access to public transportation.”

Anat Biran, a lawyer representing the residents, said “there is no project like this in Israel and that the traffic is going to be catastrophic.”

“We showed the district [planning] committee that they didn’t have the data,” Biran told the Post. “It’s crazy – they sent us back the report that we sent them because they said it’s too late. I think it’s a scandal that they don’t even want to see it.”

As average occupancy for all the hotels in the beachside area was only 62 percent from the years 2005 to 2011, there is no need for so many more rooms, the group’s spokesman said, noting that the residents would accept, say, a 200-room expansion.

“I think it’s outrageous to build in the middle of a neighborhood a mega-complex which will make us Las Vegas,” said a resident named Sharon, who lives in a nearby building.

The municipality stressed that Acadia’s development is occurring “in cooperation with the residents,” with an emphasis on improving employment, tourism, transportation and beach landscape preservation.

“The plan includes removing part of the obstructions of the view that exist today, adding an outlook to the sea, development of the Ramat Yam Street, hotel facilities, public transportation supply and more,” the municipality said.

A spokesman for the hotel said the expansion approval process has been going on for years, and at this point has been discussed, at the local, regional and national levels.

“In all instances it was possible for opponents to take the stage and voice their complaints,” the spokesman said.

“After hearing all the relevant parties and adjusting the plans to the changes that were required, the plans for the hotel expansion were approved by all the authorized committees.”

Another element of the project that is irking residents is the nominal fee that the Federman family is paying to lease the land.

In the 1970s, the family paid two down payments worth about 200,000 lirot each (about NIS 700,000 in current value), and will only have to pay 100 lirot (NIS 350) annually for the next century, explained Dror Ezra, a Herzliya city councilman and member of the Green Party.

“They gave the land almost for free for the next 100 years,” Ezra said.

The municipality explained that the city never took part in a lease signing. Instead, in 1949, the Water Plant of Herzliya, of Collective Association Ltd, leased the land to the then-owners of Acadia Hotel, Ltd, for a period of 49 years, plus two additional periods of 49 years – with widespread usage rights for the area and nominal annual fees, according to the municipality.

When the land ownership was transferred from the Water Plant to the Herzliya Municipality, the land was still subject to the terms of the original lease.

“This is a juridical agreement that cannot legally be changed,” the municipality said.

The hotel spokesman added that Dan Hotels Network had purchased the land rights from a South American hotel company.

Biran, the residents’ lawyer, called the response of the municipality “the easy answer” and said her community is willing to take the hotel owners to court over their many complaints.

The residents also say that the hotel owners are putting the coastline in danger by building directly on top of potentially eroding cliff. A government recommendation – Amendment 4 in National Outline Plan (TAMA) 13 – calls for no building within 50 meters from a cliff’s edge. However, the hotels will be less than 25 meters from the edge, they explained.

In April 2011, an interministerial committee decided to allocate NIS 500 million to coastal cliff protection for 13.1-km. of cliffs, which include the 1.6-km. stretch of Herzliya beaches from the Marina to Apollonia.

Ezra, the city councilman, said the government decisions make clear that building should not occur within 50 meters of a cliff’s edge.

“The reason is the future forecast about the rising sea, coastal erosion,” he told the Post. “This is the policy all over the world and also in Israel.

Here for Dan Acadia there is an exception.”

Ezra charged that the Interior Ministry’s Committee for the Preservation of Coasts – dubbed “ValHof” – is not protecting Herzliya’s beaches.

A spokesman from the Interior Ministry told the Post that the plan has been discussed thoroughly and amended in the ValHof, in accordance with the Coastal Environment Law of 2004, and with the participation of many environmental experts.

Meanwhile, the TAMA 13 Amendment 4 can only serve as a guide and cannot yet require building 50 meters away from the cliff, according to the ministry. The ValHof therefore decided that the area’s existing breakwaters and protective work carried out to strengthen the cliff were sufficient to warrant an exception, the ministry said.

Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense), which, along with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), had been heavily involved with opposing beach building in the Palmahim and Betzet nature reserves, said it would not be getting involved with the fight.

The Dan Acadia situation is not at all similar to the other two cases, in which “hundreds of thousands of people use them as public beaches,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din. Herzliya, he explained, is part of Gush Dan, an area that has been increasingly densely populated for 40 years. While the organization “does not like the development,” its policy is to favor expanding existing residential areas over developing new ones, Bracha told the Post.

“The plan includes strict guidelines for protecting the cliff and expanding the green open space above it,” he said.

SPNI, meanwhile, said that although its staff members have received the building plans, they still need to carefully examine the program before presenting a considered reaction to the project.

The residents, however, have made clear that they are not willing to give up their fight, and while they realize that the hotel will surely expand, they hope it can be a scaled-down version, according to the second resident, Sharon.

“I’m not that naïve to just believe it won’t happen, but everything can happen more sensibly and in a more environmentally and transportation friendly manner,” she said.

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